Starring: Dan Palmer, Antonia Bernath, Tamaryn Payne, Mark Holden, Giles Alderson
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Are zombie films really running out of ideas? Or perhaps a better question is “Can zombie films run out of ideas?” Although not giving a definitive answer, Christian James’ follow-up to 2004’s FREAK OUT, sees how far it can push the genre. Well, it doesn’t exactly push the genre, as it does try to keep it contained. Very contained. STALLED is set, almost exclusively, in a woman’s toilet, and more specifically in a single cubicle.
A janitor (Palmer) finds himself trapped in the little girl’s room on Christmas Eve, once the dead start walking the earth. It’s all fun and games at first, as he manages to spy on two scantily clad office workers who decide to have some experimental fun. That is until one rips out the other’s throat. There’s a certain silent comedic charm to the opening of the film, as the janitor barely speaks and must find ways to try and escape the toilet stalls. This leads to some very funny moments, as he takes on the classically slow and dim zombies of yesteryear.
The film then seems to realise exactly when this is getting old, and reveals that the janitor isn’t the only one trapped, and he begins a conversation with a woman two stalls down. Their banter is often funny, and it opens up a lot of avenues in terms of character development. As the conversation turns to family, mistakes, and regrets, STALLED finds itself surprisingly moving at times. Although it’s hardly clamouring for Oscars, with performances better suited to comedy than drama, it does add a thoughtful tone that elevates the final product above being just another zombie comedy.
The premise is perhaps a little stretched, even at just over 80 minutes. It certainly feels like an idea for a short film, or perhaps a single segment of an anthology, rather than a feature. James is forced to get creative with different ideas and shots, but once the janitor pops a pill and we’re given a quick dance sequence, you can see every drop of blood being squeezed from the creative sponge.
Never dull, and certainly a sign of great talent to come, STALLED is an enjoyable oddity that entertains, even if a lot of the humour seems tired. It may lack the polish of ZOMBIELAND or SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but it has just as much heart and passion.
(3 / 5)STALLED is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 24th February.